The coronavirus TV specials began in full force last night as Elton John hosted the “Living Room Concert for America” on Fox. Taking the place of the canceled iHeartRadio Music Awards (and co-sponsored by the network), the hour-long musical event came to you live from many celebrity homes as a tribute to medical workers. The commercial-free special encouraged viewers to donate to Feeding America and the First Responders Children’s Foundation as musicians performed and celebrities appeared in between video messages from first responders about the current condition of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.
Performers included Mariah Carey, the Backstreet Boys, Billie Eilish and Finneas, Demi Lovato, Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes, Alicia Keys, Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Tim McGraw, Sam Smith, and H.E.R.; Lady Gaga, Ellen DeGeneres, Lizzo, Ciara and Russell Wilson, Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone, Ryan Seacrest, and Ken Jeong also popped in with some messages. The full event will stay online through April 1, but our highlights, below, will be here always.
Elton John, as host, quelled our anxieties
“Let me tell you what’s going to keep us together: all the goodness that’s still happening in the world,” John told us early into the special. “Once we get through these tough times, better days lie ahead.” He said he couldn’t play himself because he was “quarantined in the only house I’ve ever been in without a piano.” Instead, he smoothly transitioned the show from performer to performer, jumping in to remind us to donate. At one point, the longtime AIDS advocate compared the current pandemic to what he saw in the ’80s. “Day in and day out, the disease got worse because we did nothing,” he said. “This time, we are not going to let that happen.”
Alicia Keys kicked things off with ‘Underdog’ and more piano talking
She may not have been the host this time, but she’s used to starting a show by now. “This song is like a prayer,” Keys said, playing the beginning notes of “Underdog” on a purple piano. “And I hope that we remember how resilient we are, and how we defy the odds.” Throughout the song, we got Grammys-quality camera pans to show off Keys’s piano playing. We see you, Swizz!
The Backstreet Boys performed from their separate homes with a few extra members
All five members videoed in from their separate homes in a feat of modern technology. Let’s review: Brian is in his living room, AJ is in front of his piano, Nick is by his pool, Howie is in front of some projector/whiteboard thing, and Kevin is by a fireplace. And the band gained a few more members: Kevin’s sons, Mason and Maxwell, played drums and guitar with their dad, while Nick held baby Saoirse for the end of his performance. They’ve grown up fast — but we, still the biggest BSB fans, have not.
Billie Eilish, used to performing in a bedroom, was chill as ever
John, one of Eilish’s “biggest fans,” reminded us that “homeschooled kids can grow up to win a bunch of Grammys” before cutting to her performance with her brother, Finneas. The duo celebrated the one-year anniversary of its hit album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? in true bedroom-pop manner: Eilish lie back on their couch in sweats while Finneas played acoustic guitar.
Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes are excited to ‘keep staying home’
Mendes joined Cabello for her performance, because if you couldn’t tell, they’ve been quarantining together. “We’re doing something special today!” Cabello exclaimed, as she said her boyfriend would accompany on guitar for her song “My Oh My.” And no, they did not kiss.
Lizzo’s biggest fan, Elton John, spoke with Elton John’s biggest fan, Lizzo
She didn’t perform, but Lizzo did video call in to gush about John and listen to him gush about her. It’s one of the most heartwarming conversations you’ve seen in days, which begins with John’s greeting of “Hey, guuurl!” to a bespectacled Lizzo, and ends with the pair singing “I love youuu” to each other. Somewhere in between, John even sings a few lines from “Juice.”
Tim McGraw performed like a dad making a video
An otherwise unnotable performance of “Something Like That” became notable for a few reasons: (1) Tim McGraw sat on his pool diving board the whole time for reasons unexplained, (2) McGraw’s whole band videoed in from their own homes, and (3) McGraw kept getting distracted by his dog during his own performance. “Thank you, Maggie,” he told his daughter afterward. “You’re welcome,” she replied, “Can I stop it?”
Demi Lovato sang ‘Skyscraper’ and we sobbed
The waterworks were on when one of pop’s favorite balladeers brought back her 2011 hit “Skyscraper,” playing piano for her own performance. Photos of an empty New York City flashed on both sides of her during the abbreviated song, as if the lyrics weren’t already enough.
Mariah Carey headlined, because who else could?
Coming to us from her home studio in New York, Ms. Carey assured us that performing “is not easy to do by yourself,” before making it look exactly that. Her pianist, Daniel Moore, joined from his own home, along with three backup singers, for a rendition of “Always Be My Baby” — dedicated to “them babies,” as in her twins, Moroccan and Monroe, for staying home with her. Those whistle tones at the end are proof that we can all work from home and do it well.
And, actually, Elton John did perform
By the end of the special, John managed to procure a piano — well, the electric keyboard his sons use for piano lessons, but he made do. John banged out a chorus of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” dedicated to medical workers, as the credits rolled. “When this is all over and done with,” he promised, “I’ll be out there playing for you again.” We’re not crying; you’re crying.